On a trip last fall to Europe, I spent a few days in Munich to experience Oktoberfest. With four full days planned in Munich, I knew I wanted to do more than just drink at the festival (as fun as that is 😉 ).
One day, I spent the morning wandering the city and then got on a late morning train heading to Dachau. After spending a few hours at the concentration camp, I returned to Munich and headed to Oktoberfest for the evening.
Dachau was the Nazi’s first concentration camp and the only one to have existed throughout the entirety of Nazi rule. It was a horrific place.
Opening just weeks after Adolf Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor in 1933, it was the largest and most well-known camp in the early years.
At first, it was used as a place to imprison political prisoners, but became a transfer station for prisoners headed to other, larger camps.
For 12 years, thousands of people were tortured, abused, stripped of their dignity and murdered. The prisoner’s entrance bore the motto, “Arbeit macht frei”, which translates to Work will make you free. This was a way of humiliating incoming prisoners, who knew there was no viable escape from the camp.
When Dachau was built, it was made to hold 6,000 prisoners. By the war’s end, over 32,000 people were staying at the camp.
Overcrowding meant a lack of food- thousands of prisoners died at Dachau from either disease, malnutrition or torture. Although there is a gas chamber at Dachau, it was never used. The crematorium however, was, unfortunately, used.
As unsetting and uncomfortable as it was, it was also a moving experience. As Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said, “To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
If you visit Dachau, you’ll be able to walk the grounds, visiting a remaining dormitory and the on-site museum. The museum is excellent- a detailed history of the Nazi regime and Dachau from WWII to present.
From Munich, Dachau can be reached in about an hour. Just take the S-Bahn S2 line towards Petershausen, or RB 59154Nürnberg Hbf. Once you reach Dachau, take the bus (724 or 726) to the camp. To ensure we were covered on public transit, we bought an “all zone” ticket for the day we visited Dachau.
Dachau is open daily from 9-5, entry is free. We spent ~2 hours at Dachau, and I’d recommend 3-4- there were a few things, like watching the film inside the museum or taking a guided tour, that we didn’t have time for, both of which I’m sure would have enriched our experience.